There are plenty of very adequate reports on the keynote out there, so I’m not going to get into the details too much. Just wanted to say, you know when you’re among a bunch of game developer geeks when tech demos get cheers and applause, and the glitzy, poppy marketing video gets stone silence.
I ended up waking up a bit later than I’d hoped today, and barely made it over to the convention center in time to get some coffee and a muffin before my tutorial started (Player-Centric Game Design Workshop, which is being presented by Ernest Adams). It was a really excellent all day tutorial where the first hour or two was a lecture on good design practices, and then we broke into groups of 5 and designed games for the rest of the day, before presenting them at the end of the workshop to the rest of the group. My group made “Sim Elves in Space”, which was based around the idea of wanting to build and manage a space station. Each part of the 5 person group had a role in the design: lead designer (manager), game designer, art director, ui designer, and level designer. I was the game designer, so my job was figuring out the game mechanics and internal economy of the game — I think I did alright, considering it was my first time working with a group in this fashion (this is the curse of going to a school like Vermont College… you get used to doing things on your own, with little to no collaboration). I had a pleasant chat with Ernest Adams during one of the breaks, and he seemed receptive to my theories on focusing on more theatric tools and elements over cinematic elements in games, to creatie a more compelling story. He’s got a lecture on Friday that I’d love to attend on the subject, but it’s opposite a lecture on bootstrapping a small development studio, and unfortunately that needs to take precedence.
After the workshop, I went back to the hotel and had a platter of vegetarian sushi, some edamame, and some miso soup… and then promptly got invited to dinner with my friend Robert, and some of his friends that were in town for the conference (they all went to Digipen together… half the table was from Valve). That was good fun, and ended up with everyone going back to one of the hotel rooms for some Karaoke Revolution (I managed to get out before they were subjected to my singing).
Overall, another tiring but good day.
I’ve been in the San Jose area since Friday at this point, and spent the weekend visiting my cousins and getting a general feel for the area. It’s really hammered home how out of shape I am; after two days of hoofing it all over downtown San Jose, I’m hobbling around a little from a sore tendon in one foot and a raw spot on the other from where my sandal was rubbing against it. (It’s time for new sandals.)
I’ve been handing out business cards to everyone I chat with, so it’s possible that I will shortly have some new visitors (hello to any that come by). I’ve handed out probably about a dozen so far — not bad for being in a tutorial session all day (and it’s only the first day). People have been responding well to my ideas on putting together a development company focusing on narrative based games, so that bodes very well for getting Critical Games to actually get off the ground. (One of the individuals I was chatting with also gave me some suggestions on where to look for grants that would go quite far in getting started… potentially up to $100,000 for 6 months to develop a proof of concept, with a phase 2 portion that could potentially be somewhere between $250,000 and $500,000. This would be fantastic.)
I had just one session today, a full day tutorial about creativity. It was well presented and I had fun with it, though I must say it was pretty tiring and by the end of it, I was grateful to get up and stretch my legs. A lot of the information was fairly basic (stuff like “watch what you eat”, “get plenty of rest”, “drink lots of water” etc), but there were also some really useful exercises and suggestions on ways to help train your creativity and creative output. For the second half of the session, we broke into small groups and did a variety of design exercises to demonstrate the role of creativity in design. These ranged from some smaller scale design problems from case study games, to prototyping and presenting a boardgame given random provided puzzle pieces in about 30 minutes. Our group was comprised mostly of professors from Full Sail (good people, they were goofy and friendly, but also clearly knowledgeable in their respective fields), and ended up making a game called “Space Pig” (opting not to go the “Pigs in Space” route lest Henson sue us), since one of the game pieces we were given was a small plastic pig and the game board was a star field of sorts. The basic premise was that there was the Space Pig in the center of the board, and he’s hungry, so you needed to trek out in your ship to the edge of the map and collect a “water” token and a “food” token, and bring them back to the pig in the center. Of course, if you ran across another player’s ship, your path would be obstructed, and you’d have to battle (each rolls a die, the player with the lower number loses a health token and is sent back to his home point… if they have a food or water token, that is sent back into the resource pools at the rim of the board). To win, either kill all your opponents (that’d be an awful lot of lucky rolls, though, since each of the four players starts with four health points), or be the first to get both the food and the water to the space pig, and then return to your home base. (I’m writing it down so I don’t forget, and for posterity.) Overall, it was a worthwhile tutorial despite it occupying the entirety of my day.
Also on Monday, during one of the breaks, I went down to the GDC store they have set up and checked out their array of books and such. They were a fair bit overpriced, but that’s partially because a number of them were books that had not yet been officially released. I picked up The Game Design Reader, which is a companion book to Rule of Play. With that lovely sort of zen synchronicity that I’m so fond of, as I was paying for it, someone behind me commented “Good book”… turned out to be Eric Zimmerman, the editor of the book (The Reader is a collection of essays from various authors). So, now I have an autographed copy of the book sitting in a bag on my hotel table. Pretty neat.
I’ve put together a tentative schedule for the week, in case anyone is interested: Continue reading “GDC Day 1”